2012 Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Coordination Meeting
Dec. 3-4, 2012 Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783


Poster Abstracts

The Importance of Intake Bar Spacing for Protecting Sturgeon at Hydropower Projects

Steve Amaral - Alden Research Laboratory, Inc., Holden, MA

Description: Narrow bar spacings (less than or equal to 2 inches) have been installed at many hydro
project intakes to reduce entrainment of fish through turbines and, when combined with angled
structures, to guide them to downstream bypasses. The ability of narrow bar spacings to prevent
entrainment is dependent on fish size and behavior and approach velocities. Even when fish are small
enough to pass through a given bar spacing, many fish will actively avoid entrainment through intake racks
as long as approach velocities are low enough for them to escape. Additionally, the relatively small size
(less than 8 inches in length) of most fish that are entrained at hydro projects (with and without narrow
bar spacing) usually results in high turbine survival rates. Therefore, determining appropriate bar spacings
for any species or life stage should include estimation of physical and behavioral exclusion associated with
proposed intake modifications, as well as estimates of turbine passage survival for fish that are entrained.
These parameters can be estimated using existing data describing bar rack exclusion efficiencies and
theoretical models developed for predicting turbine passage survival. When combined with the
proportion of fish expected to pass over spillways for the expected river flows during a migration season,
the bar rack exclusion and turbine survival estimates can be used to calculate total downstream passage
survival for several bar spacings and a range of fish lengths in order to assess relative effectiveness. A
dataset developed for shortnose sturgeon at a hydro project in the Northeast will be presented to
demonstrate how such an analysis can be used for determining appropriate bar spacings for effectively
protecting sturgeon species at any project.

A/OFRC Sturgeon Research

Curtis Avery - Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Center (A/OFRC), North Bay, ON

Description: First Nations throughout Ontario have significant knowledge of and cultural ties to Lake
Sturgeon, particularly those First Nations whose territorial boundaries border the Great Lakes basin. Of
the 38 First Nations that make up the UOI, 25 border the Great Lakes basin (mainly Lake Huron and Lake
Superior) and 4 border watersheds that support Lake Sturgeon populations. Since 1999, the A/OFRC has
partnered with 12 of these First Nations to complete a total of 45 Lake Sturgeon research projects within
the Great Lakes basin. These projects varied from spring spawning assessments, to open water netting,
telemetry tagging and monitoring, critical habitat classification, and traditional ecological knowledge
studies. In northeastern Lake Superior, the A/OFRC has worked in partnership with 3 First Nations,
provincial and federal government agencies, and universities to gather traditional ecological knowledge
and design scientific research projects that combine netting, radio telemetry, and habitat assessments on
three spawning tributaries (Pic River, White River, and Michipicoten River). Results from these studies
have identified and assessed critical habitat, estimated population abundance and characteristics,
monitored movement patterns and environmental cues, and engaged communities in monitoring Lake
Sturgeon populations within their traditional territories. This poster hopes to visualize such projects
completed by the A/OFRC throughout the Great Lakes Basin.

Environmental and Family Effects on Lake Sturgeon Eggs and Larval Mortality and Growth in a Streamside Facility

Nathan Barton1, John Bauman1, Kim Scribner1, and Edward Baker2
1Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
2Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI

Description: Production hatcheries typically focus on numbers of fish produced rather than fish quality,
including genetic diversity. Family effects on egg and larval mortality and growth rates can influence
diversity and size of hatchery-reared fish. Rearing fish in a streamside rearing facility (SRF) introduces fish
during early life stages to a wider range of environmental conditions, (i.e., temperature, dissolved oxygen,
turbidity) than would be experienced in a traditional hatchery setting. Lake sturgeon (Acipenser
fulvescens) gametes were collected throughout the spawning period from spawning adults (total N=41) in
the Black Lake, MI population over a four year period (2009 – 2012). Gametes were fertilized using half-sib
crosses and were reared at ambient temperatures using filtered river water. Egg mortality was recorded
daily, allowing for estimates of the timing and causes of mortality. Digital photos of larvae (N=25/family)
were taken at hatch and once each week for three weeks post-hatch. Image analysis software was used to
measure body size and yolk sac area (YSA). Temperature was recorded hourly during egg incubation and
larval rearing. Egg mortalities were highest during the first two trimesters of development. Larvae reared
in colder temperatures were larger at hatch and had smaller YSA, than eggs reared in warmer
temperatures. Peaks in egg mortality were temperature-dependent and varied significantly among
families. Family and temperature-dependent differences in body size were also observed through the
three week post-hatch period, demonstrating important genetic and environmental effects on allocation
of yolk resources to phenotypes that likely have important consequences for survival.

Post hatch dispersal of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) larvae in relation to substrate in an artificial stream

John Bauman - Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Description: Knowledge of the effects of environment and genotype on behavior during early ontogenetic
stages of many fish species including lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) is generally lacking. Data are
particularly important at a time when human activities are fundamentally altering habitats and seasonal
and diel physical and biotic stream features. We conducted our experiment to quantify larval lake
sturgeon dispersal distance and stream substrate preference using three day post-hatch larvae from
different females (N=2) whose eggs were incubated at different temperatures (10oC and 18oC) simulating
stream conditions during early and late spawning and incubation periods in the Black River, MI. Data
revealed that three day post-hatch larvae exhibited considerable variability in dispersal distance as a
function of family (genotype), temperature experienced during previous (embryonic) ontogenetic stages,
and environmental ‘grain’. Larval dispersal distances three days post hatch varied as a function of the
juxtaposition of substrate to location of egg hatch. Larval lake sturgeon dispersed to and settled
exclusively in gravel substrate. Larval dispersal distance also varied as a function of family and egg
incubation temperatures reflecting differences in offspring body size and levels of endogenous yolk
reserves (yolk sac area) at hatch. Expression of plasticity in larval dispersal behavior may be particularly
important to individual survival and population levels of recruitment contingent upon the location, size,
and degree of fragmentation of suitable (gravel) habitats between adult spawning and larval rearing areas.

Effects of prophylactic pathogen abatement treatments on larval lake sturgeon survival in stream-side

John Bauman - Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Description: Stream-side facilities for lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) utilize a natal water source
exposing larvae to natural temperature fluctuations as well as chemical attributes believed to be
associated with imprinting. However, stream-side rearing also increases exposure of larvae to microbial
communities which include potential fish pathogens. We quantified rates of larval survival in multiple
production families and from larvae captured during evening stream drift assessments based on exposure
to two prophylactic treatments (hydrogen peroxide and salt) for 30 days following the initiation of
exogenous feeding. The use of hydrogen peroxide reduced mortality while salt had no significant effect
on survival. Prophylactic treatments may help managers to reach stocking goals for lake sturgeon in the
Great Lakes.

The Role of Resource Managers in Education & Outreach Planning: Implications for successful fisheries projects

Mary Bohling – Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University Extension, Lincoln Park, MI
Elizabeth LaPorte - Michigan Sea Grant, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Description: Successful projects require careful planning, implementation, monitoring and
evaluation. However, public outreach and education, though often overlooked, can be equally important
elements of successful projects when used to extend and enhance natural resources projects. A number
of natural resource managers have developed multi-disciplinary teams that include scientists as well as
outreach and education professionals who provide information about Michigan’s coastal Great Lakes
areas to residents, schools and others through workshops, public events, presentations, publications,
websites, displays and targeted communications. Science-based outreach tools can greatly enhance and
extend research efforts and help key audiences, including potential future supporters understand why an
issue may be important. Outreach efforts are designed to foster science-based decisions about the use
and conservation of Great Lakes resources. These efforts can also aid in developing new partnerships,
support for future projects and increased funding. Examples from Michigan Sea Grant’s work on several
Huron to Erie Corridor projects will be used to demonstrate the positive impacts of incorporation of
education and outreach.

Lake Sturgeon Restoration in the Upper St. Louis River, MN

Brian Borkholder and Tom Howes - Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Cloquet, MN

Description: In the mid 1990’s, Fond du Lac Resource Management Department (FCLRMD) began planting
lake sturgeon eggs obtained from cooperative efforts with USFWS Ashland FRO, WIDNR, and MIDNR.
After several years of assessments, no sturgeon were ever located. When VHS hit the Great Lakes, the
egg-stocking efforts came to a halt. Beginning in the late 2000’s, anecdotal reports of sturgeon being
angled began trickling thru the rumor mill. FDLRMD began an assessment blitz using gill nets and angling
to see if lake sturgeon could be located. Three years into the project, we have over a dozen sturgeon
fitted with transmitters and are documenting habitat use within the river. Genetic analysis has confirmed
that these sturgeon did originate from the parent stocks used as the egg source during the original
stocking efforts. FDLRMD plans on resurrecting the stocking of eggs / fry beginning soon to supplement
this population with additional year classes as we continue to press towards a fully-restored population on
the upper St. Louis River and Reservation waters.

Evaluation of Larval Lake Sturgeon Production near an Artificial Spawning Reef (Fighting Island Reef) in the Detroit River

Emily Bouckaert - Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI

Description: In 2008, an artificial spawning reef was constructed near Fighting Island in the Detroit River to
enhance spawning habitat for native fishes including lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). In this system,
much of the natural lake sturgeon spawning habitat has been degraded or eliminated as a result of
channelization, dredging, and substrate removal. The Fighting Island reef consists of 12 experimental reef
beds containing four different substrate treatments. In 2012, reef beds composed of different substrates
were sampled for fish larvae in order to evaluate the effectiveness of this artificial reef project. We
detected the presence of lake sturgeon eggs on all substrate types on 9 May, and began larval lake
sturgeon sampling using D-Frame drift nets on 15 May. We focused larval sampling efforts on the four
reefs closest to Fighting Island where we found the highest egg densities. Night sampling (20:00-06:00
hrs) was conducted biweekly until 5 June. In total, 30 lake sturgeon larvae were collected directly
downstream of the four reef beds and 3larvae were collected upstream in control sites. Approximately
45.5% of the larvae were collected on the 15 May, and zero larvae were collected on 5 June. A repeated
measures ANOVA found no significant difference in average CPUEs (larval sturgeon/hr/night) between
sampling sites located directly downstream of the four reef bed treatments. Our results indicate that the
Fighting Island reef is producing viable lake sturgeon larvae. While our sampling effort in such a large
system is small, larval drift downstream of each substrate type was documented.

Using Commercial Fisheries Tagging Data to Assess the Status of Lake Sturgeon in Saginaw Bay, Michigan

Justin Chiotti - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Waterford, MI
Adam Kowalski - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alpena, MI
Lloyd Mohr - Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Owen Sound, ON

Description: In an effort to better understand the status of lake sturgeon in Saginaw Bay, Michigan, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initiated a project in 1995 utilizing the voluntary participation of commercial
fishers who encounter lake sturgeon as by-catch in their fisheries. To date, 357 individual lake sturgeon
have been tagged by commercial fisherman in Saginaw Bay. We utilized tagging information collected in
1995-2011 to make inferences on the demographics of lake sturgeon in the bay. Individual fish capture
histories were input into MARK to estimate the number of lake sturgeon utilizing the bay and apparent
survival. Of the 357 originally tagged fish, 22 have been recaptured once in a different year and three
have been recaptured in two different years. The number of lake sturgeon utilizing the bay is estimated to
be 2,881 (95% CI = 2041 – 4139). Apparent survival estimates were much lower than what has been
reported in other systems < 70%, suggesting temporary emigration out of the bay. Concurrent markrecapture
studies by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) in Southern Lake Huron have
recaptured 11 lake sturgeon initially tagged in Saginaw Bay. Thirteen lake sturgeon initially tagged by
OMNR in Southern Lake Huron near Port Huron, MI (out of 1,657 tagged total) were recaptured in
Saginaw Bay. Data suggests a substantial amount of movement between these two stocks; however
additional tagging is needed to better understand interactions between these stocks.

Lake Sturgeon Population Demographics in the Detroit/St. Clair System, 1996-2012

Justin Chiotti - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Waterford, MI
Lloyd Mohr - Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Owen Sound, ON
Michael Thomas - Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Harrison Township, MI
James Boase - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Waterford, MI
Bruce Manny - U.S. Geological Survey, Ann Arbor, MI

Description: The Detroit/St. Clair System, encompassing Southern Lake Huron, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair,
Detroit River, and Western Lake Erie contains one of the largest lake sturgeon populations in the Great
Lakes. Here we present population demographic information describing the status of three different
spawning stocks in this system over the last sixteen years. Mark-recapture assessments conducted in
1996-2012 have resulted in 1,657, 1,483, and 214, individually tagged lake sturgeon in Southern Lake
Huron, North Channel of the St. Clair River, and Detroit River, respectively. Individual fish capture
histories were input into POPAN and Pradel models in MARK to estimate stock size, apparent survival, and
seniority. The estimated adult population size for the Southern Lake Huron stock is 35,484 (95% CI =
25,939 – 45,030), followed by the North Channel of the St. Clair River 11,720 (95% CI = 7,356 – 16,083),
and Detroit River 4,068 (95% CI = 869 – 7,268). Seniority probability (?) estimates were > 0.50 during all
years but one, demonstrating the importance of adult survival in maintaining these stocks. Adult apparent
survival estimates ranged between 60 - 71% for the North Channel of the St. Clair River stock and 68 – 71%
for the Southern Lake Huron stock. Movement throughout the system may account for low apparent
survival estimates observed. Mark-recapture data has provided valuable information regarding the
Detroit/St. Clair System lake sturgeon population; however additional assessment is needed to further
understand the status of these stocks.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program Helps Lake Sturgeon

Christie Deloria-Sheffield - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Marquette, MI

Description: Over the last several years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coastal Program has actively
engaged with Lake Sturgeon partners. The poster will summarize work completed or initiated through the
Coastal Program and highlight points of contact for the program. The purpose is to ensure sturgeon
partners are aware of the Coastal Program, engage with new partners, and identify priority projects for
future years.

Milestones in NY Lake Sturgeon Restoration

Dawn Dittman - U.S. Geological Survey, Cortland, NY

Description: This will be a description of the recent milestones in Lake Sturgeon in New York. These will
include numbers and size distributions in target waters and the current reproductive status of the stocked

Lake Sturgeon Management Cooperator Patch and Handling Guide

David Dortman - Sturgeon for Tomorrow, St. Clair - Detroit River, Burtchville, MI

Description: St. Clair-Detroit River Sturgeon for Tomorrow (SDR-SFT) is a non-profit organization that was
formed in 2010 by a group of lake sturgeon anglers in Southeast Michigan. In following our mission to
perpetuate lake sturgeon by assisting fisheries managers, the board of directors approved the designing
and funding of a Lake Sturgeon Management Cooperator Patch in 2011 to encourage anglers to report
tagged lake sturgeon. The patch was provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Lake St.
Clair Fisheries Research Station for distribution to anglers who report tagged lake sturgeon information. In
2012, SDR-SFT developed a 2 page brochure to educate anglers on best practices to follow when handling
and releasing lake sturgeon. The guide also provides information on recommended equipment to be
prepared to fish for lake sturgeon, and contact information to report tagged fish. The guide was closely
modeled after guidelines published by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This poster was
developed by SDR-SFT with the assistance of Michael Thomas with Michigan Department of Natural
Resources, Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station, and Justin Chiotti with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Immune Cells in the Brain of Larval Lake Sturgeon

Barbara Evans and Jun Li - Lake Superior State University, Sault Ste Marie, MI

Description: Melanomacrophage aggregate systems or centers (MMC’s) are observed in vertebrates liver,
kidney and spleen tissue. They function as a component of the immune system that can be stationary or
mobile throughout various organs. They are normally present with infection within the organism, and
have been observed to encapsulate the pathogen. However, our aggregates of immune cells are being
found in healthy larval lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) from relatively pristine tributaries in the upper
Great Lakes. This study centers on identification, and speculates on the purpose of these immune cells.
The MMCs were first observed in a 10 day post hatch (dph) living specimen from a Lake Superior tributary
(Sturgeon River MI). Using video-microscopy, these small (@75 micron), pigmented structures were
observed moving around inside the ventricle of the sturgeon brain. The following year, lake sturgeon eggs
from a Lake Huron tributary (Black River MI) were obtained shortly after fertilization, preserved for light
microscopy at selected developmental stages, cross-sectioned at 3 microns and stained with cresyl violet.
The MMCs were found to be present at hatching, and composed of dendritic and macrophage immune
cells, as well as melanin granules. Lake sturgeon from a Lake Michigan tributary (Big Manistee River MI)
also contained these structures in 80% of the observed larvae. To our knowledge, MMCs within the
ventricle of the brain of larval lake sturgeon have not previously been reported. More in-depth studies are
required to understand the function of these immune cell clusters within healthy fish.

Population dynamics of lake sturgeon in the lower Niagara River: revisiting and reassessing a recovering population 10 years later.

Dimitry Gorsky - US Fish and Wildlife Service, Basom, NY

Description: Evidence from assessments carried out in the lower Niagara River between 1998 and 2002
suggested that the lake sturgeon population may be recovering. During that assessment less than 100
lake sturgeon were sampled. Many of them were observed to be young and sexually immature fish.
There appeared to be a lack of older, sexually mature fish prompting the investigators to believe this
population was in recovery and awaiting the onset of sexual maturity to continue the recovery. In 2012,
we began a population assessment of this population using similar methods and locations as the previous
assessment. During our assessments, we observed much higher catch rates and a shift in the age
structure toward older fish that appear to be of the same cohort that was sampled in the earlier
assessment. We also observed a lack of older fish, but did observe several sexually mature fish. Analysis
of population measures, catch rates and habitat use gives us a closer understanding of the lake sturgeon
population in the lower Niagara River and insight into how relict populations may undergo recovery.

Population status of lake sturgeon in the Muskegon River, Michigan.

Brandon Harris, Garden Valley State University, Annis Water Resources Institute, Muskegon, MI
A.C. Wieten, M.E.L. Altenritter, C.R. Ruetz, and K.M. Smith.

Description: The Muskegon River is a Lake Michigan tributary that supports a remnant population of lake
sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens). We have been working to assess the status of this population since 2008.
Each spring we sample adult lake sturgeon via gill netting in Muskegon Lake and boat electrofishing in the
Muskegon River. We sampled juveniles with gill nets in Muskegon Lake each year during August-
December. Finally, we sampled larval drift in the Muskegon River to assess reproductive success. Agestructure
analysis of captured lake sturgeon (n=116; mean age = 11.4) indicates 24 year classes are
represented among the individuals captured vial gill netting and boat electrofishing, with the age of the
majority (91.5 % of aged fish) of individuals less than 21 years. The number of adults in the annual
spawning run is relatively low, with the number of adults captured during any given year ranging from 9 to
49. Larval lake sturgeon were successfully captured in 2009-2011 (n = 50; range = 13.0-21.5 mm total
length). Juvenile lake sturgeon were captured each year of the study in Muskegon Lake (n = 138; range =
23.1 to 108.5 cm total length). Our results suggest the spawning run in the Muskegon River is small,
although the abundance of the population appears to be growing.

Sex, maturity, and changing spawner demographics of lake sturgeon in the lower Niagara River

Gregory R. Jacobs - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lamar, PA
Molly A. H. Webb - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bozeman, MT
Dimitry Gorsky - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Basom, NY
John A. Sweka - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lamar, PA

Description: Evidence suggests that the lake sturgeon population in the lower Niagara River is recovering,
largely driven by a small number of large cohorts from the mid-late 1990s. Based on estimated ages from
pectoral fin ray samples, there was a predominance of lake sturgeon aged 12-17 years in this population
during 2012. As fish from these cohorts reach maturity, changes in the sex ratio and age composition of
spawning lake sturgeon are expected to occur over the next several years, given differences in maturation
and spawning periodicity among sexes. As such, these changes can have important implications for
population growth, or even persistence, we began monitoring the age, sex, and maturation stage of lake
sturgeon in the lower Niagara River during spring of 2012. To assign sex and maturation stage, we
quantified the concentration of testosterone and 17ß-estradiol in blood serum samples using
radioimmunoassay. We then confirmed blood plasma results and quantified error rates using histological
analysis of gonad biopsies. Ages were estimated by enumerating annuli from cross-sections of the leading
pectoral fin rays. Our results depict a snapshot of the lower Niagara River lake sturgeon spawning
population in 2012, providing us with important baseline estimates of age and sex ratio of spawning fish
which can be combined with mark-recapture assessment, genetic analyses, and further monitoring to
construct population viability models.

Modeling the effect of hydroelectric operations on sturgeon habitat in the Spanish River

Bruce Kilgour1, Michael Davies2, Neil MacDonald2, Julien Cousineau2, Cameron Portt3, Carolyn Hunt4.
1 Kilgour & Associates Ltd., Ottawa, ON
2 Coldwater Consulting Ltd., Ottawa, ON
3 C. Portt and Associates, Guelph, ON
4 Vale Canada Ltd., Sudbury, ON

Description: A large Lake Sturgeon population spawns in the vicinity of Espanola Falls on the Spanish River.
The quantity and quality of sturgeon spawning habitat is influenced by operations at three hydroelectric
generating stations (Big Eddy GS, Nairn GS, Lorne Falls GS) upstream of Espanola, as well as operations at
Espanola Falls. A TELEMAC hydrodynamic model was calibrated for the river system under two flow
regimes, then used to estimate water depth and flow velocities for the receiving environment
downstream of Espanola Falls for the sturgeon spawning periods in each year from 2001 to 2011.
Hydrodynamics were modeled for four operational scenarios (flow regimes) that included: (1) existing
conditions (i.e., modest peaking); (2) smoothed peaking; (3) run-of-river; and (4) naturalized flow regime.
The hydrodynamic model results were then used as input to a spawning habitat suitability model that
considered flow velocities, water depth and substrate texture, and predicted conditions for pixels of ~6 m2
in size. The model also considers water temperature, the timing of spawning, and the likelihood that eggs
will go dry because of variations in water elevations. Approximately 6.6% of the high-quality spawning
habitat has the potential to go dry under existing operational scenarios because of fluctuations in
discharge through the turbines. Operating as run-of-river (with hourly fluctuations) would reduce the
affected spawning areas to 5.9%, while operating without hourly fluctuations would reduce the affected
areas to 0.7%, and operating as a more naturalized system would reduce the affected areas to 0.3%.

Lake Michigan Lake Sturgeon Streamside Rearing Partnership

Lead Author: Lake Michigan Lake Sturgeon Task Group
Project Cooperators:
Manistee River Facility
– Marty Holtgren, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Manistee, MI.
– Steve Fajfer, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Wild Rose, WI.
Cedar River Facility and Whitefish River Facility
– Ed Baker, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI.
Milwaukee River Facility
– Brad Eggold, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Milwaukee, WI.
– Mary Holleback, River Edge Nature Center, Newburg, WI
Kewaunee River Facility
– Mike Baumgartner, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Kewaunee, WI.
Kalamazoo River Facility
– Kregg Smith, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Plainwell, MI.
– Doug Aloisi, US Fish &Wildlife Service, Genoa, WI.
Black River Research Facility
– Kim Scribner, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
– Ed Baker, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Marquette, MI.
Overall Project
– Rob Elliott and Kevin Mann, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Green Bay, WI.

Description: Lake sturgeons still persist in at least 9 rivers tributary to Lake Michigan but at a fraction of
their historic abundance. In 2002, a multi-group partnership initiated a lake-wide assessment of the status
of these remnant populations which led to the identification of rehabilitation needs and the development
of genetic guidelines for the stocking of lake sturgeon. Consistent with these guidelines, streamside
rearing was first initiated in Lake Michigan on the Manistee River in 2004 and has since expanded to a
total of 6 rivers as a means to reintroduce sturgeon to rivers where extirpated or to rehabilitate existing
populations. An important aspect of streamside rearing is the direct use of river water for incubation and
rearing in hopes that young sturgeon will imprint to the target waters and eventually return to spawn in
the rivers where they were reared and stocked, thus reducing the chance for unwanted genetic
consequences associated with straying of stocked fish. Over a 4-6 month period, sturgeon are reared to
sizes of 100-200 mm, tagged with PIT tags and/or CWTs and fin clips, and released into the target river
during late summer and fall of their first growing season. Since 2004, 17,432 lake sturgeon fingerlings
have been released from the 6 streamside facilities operating on Lake Michigan. Over the next 25 years,
researchers will evaluate the return of these fish to the stocked rivers and monitor population growth and
maintenance of genetic diversity necessary for long-term sustainability.

Assessment of larval lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) production and drift periodicity on the
Menominee River, Wisconsin

Dave Lawrence - University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI

Description: Lake sturgeon larvae were sampled below the North American Hydro dam on the Menominee
River for the 2012 drift season. Ten drift nets were deployed in approximately the same position and
evenly spaced along a 200 meter wide transect, 800 meters downstream from the Menominee Dam, two
additional nets were deployed in an elevated position, 0.5 m above the river bottom. A total of 374 lake
sturgeon larvae were captured, with two distinctive peaks in larval drift activity observed. A total of 201
lake sturgeon larvae were captured during the first peak of larval drift (5/14-5/18), and 173 lake sturgeon
larvae were collected during the second peak (5/27-6/1). The peak of drift each night was consistently
between 21:00 and 22:00 hours. Based on water temperature data, the spawning events that contributed
to the peaks of larval production occurred on approximately 4/16 and 5/17, respectively. Most larval lake
sturgeon larvae were captured in the middle of the stream and near the Wisconsin shore. Both elevated
nets were productive, with one capturing the largest number of larvae during 2012, (n=49). There was a
statistically significant correlation between average river velocity at each net and the number of lake
sturgeon larvae captured, (p < 0.05; R?? = 0.424).

Lake Sturgeon Restoration in the Central Great Lakes

Bruce Manny1, Jim Boase2, Greg Kennedy1, Ed Roseman1, Richard Drouin3, Jacquelyn Craig1, David Bennion1,
Jen Read4, Lynn Vaccaro4 and Mike Thomas5
1 U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Geological Survey, Ann Arbor, MI
2 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Waterford, MI
3 Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Wheatley, ON
4 Michigan Sea Grant, Ann Arbor, MI
5 Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Harrison Township, MI

Description: Lake sturgeon were once abundant in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers. Owing to construction
of commercial shipping channels in the early 1900’s, much of the spawning habitat for lake sturgeon was
destroyed in these rivers. An early study found only 2 of 9 reputed sturgeon spawning sites in the Detroit
River had enough clean, layered, rock rubble for successful reproduction (McClain and Manny 2000). Since
2003, as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, two fish spawning reefs have been constructed in
the Detroit River (1.1 ac total) and one such reef has been constructed in the St. Clair River (1.0 ac). Lake
sturgeon have reproduced at Fighting Island in the Detroit River and at the Middle Channel reef in the
lower St. Clair River. Here we present how and of what materials the spawning reefs were constructed,
evidence to date of lake sturgeon reproduction at two of the reefs, the geo-spatial model we developed to
select where to construct more spawning habitat, and our plans to construct more sturgeon spawning
habitat in these rivers. Lastly, we place our results in context with restoration of lake sturgeon populations
in the central Great Lakes.

Lake Sturgeon Habitat in the White River

Keith Nahwegahbow - Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, North Bay, ON

Description: This poster shows the study of Lake Sturgeon movements and habitat utilization via radio
telemetry on the White River. The use of the SonarTRX, side imaging sonar, to identify critical habitat and
the development of a habitat suitability model of critical Lake Sturgeon habitat on the White River.
This poster includes:
1. Objectives of the study and the importance of habitat for Lake Sturgeon
2. Methods: process of collecting sonar data (transects, date, pictures/maps? etc), processing of sonar
data that was collected (sonarTRX, ArcGIS, Suitability Modelling)
3. Results:
a. Substrate map of the White River
b. Bathymetric map of the White River
c. Locations of radio tagged Lake Sturgeon to identify the substrate and depth preferences of
Lake Sturgeon in the White River
d. Lake Sturgeon suitability map of the White River based on substrate type and depth
suitability index scores
e. Estimate length of time to collect/process data
f. And where were Lake Sturgeon most frequently observed
4. Discussion: how useful is this method? How could it be improved? Advantages/disadvantages?

Prioritizing barrier removal to restore access to historical riverine spawning grounds

Thomas Neeson1, Peter McIntyre1, Stephanie Januchowski-Hartley1, Matthew Diebel2, Patrick Doran3, and
Jesse O’Hanley4
1 Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI USA
2 Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, Madison, WI USA
3 The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI USA
4 Management Science Group, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK

Description: A key challenge in lake sturgeon restoration is their limited access to historical riverine
spawning grounds, which are often upstream of barriers (dams, road-stream crossings). The removal or
modification of instream barriers can restore migratory pathways for sturgeon and other important
species, but the costs (economic, species invasions) and benefits (access to breeding habitats) differ
among potential projects. The restoration community lacks a transparent method for comparing these
costs and benefits to assess which barrier removal projects would offer the greatest return on investment.
To address this problem, we are undertaking a three-step project with the goal of providing a decision
support tool for prioritizing barriers for removal. First, we have developed the most comprehensive
database to date of the location of dams (n=7,091) and road-stream crossings (n=268,818) in the Great
Lakes Basin. Second, we have created a predictive statistical model to estimate the passability of each of
these potential barriers for fishes. Third, we are currently developing mathematical optimization models
to determine optimal barrier removal sequences to enhance the amount of breeding habitat made
available for a given budget. We will discuss the key factors that drive barrier prioritization, future data
needs, and the strengths and limitations of applying optimization approaches to enhance lake sturgeon
restoration efforts.

North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society

Affiliation: North American Sturgeon and Paddlefish Society

Enhancing Michigan’s virtual and place-based educational opportunities and community stewardship
using charismatic lake sturgeon in coupled human - Great Lakes ecosystems

Kim Scribner and John Bauman - Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Michigan State University, East
Lansing, MI

Description: Educating K-12 students and the general public about Great Lakes ecosystems and interdependencies
between fish communities and physical and biological processes of streams used seasonally
for spawning and foraging is critical to increase awareness of the need for stewardship activities. We have
developed a virtual (e-learning) web site based on 12 years of data collected on the lake sturgeon
population in Black Lake, MI. The site contains extensive background information on lake sturgeon
ecology through all life stages. Science, technology and math curricula have been developed that are
based on empirical long-term data from the Black Lake Project.

Biological Characteristics of Lake Sturgeon in Traditionally Fished Waters of Lake Nipigon Sampled in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009

Kim Tremblay - Anishinabek/Ontario Fisheries Resource Centre, North Bay, ON

Description: Since time immemorial, Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) has been an important cultural
and subsistence fish species for Biinjitiwaabik Zaaging Anishinaabek (BZA) First Nation. Lake Nipigon is a
large (484 800 ha), deep, remote lake that provides a unique refuge for Lake Sturgeon. However, little is
known about the health and biological characteristics of the Lake Nipigon Sturgeon. Local knowledge of
spring and fall Lake Sturgeon locations lead to the capture of 135 Lake Sturgeon over a four year period.
With the targeted sets, the probability of capturing a Lake Sturgeon was greatest in 10-15 m and lowest in
0 - 5 m of water. The analysis showed that the number of Lake Sturgeon captured increases as depth
increases, and that the size of the Lake Sturgeon also increases with depth. This study determined that
Lake Sturgeon were residing in the traditionally known areas in the fall. Another result from this project
came from a recaptured Lake Sturgeon reported by a fisherman. A Lake Sturgeon that was tagged in the
main basin by the Namewaminikan River was recaptured in the Little Jackfish River. The recapture of a
Lake Sturgeon in the Little Jackfish River shows that this tributary has value as Lake Sturgeon habitat.
Traditional knowledge provided by Elders Harold Michon and Frank Goodman was invaluable to the
success of this project. I am grateful to Tim Haxton, Aquatic Science Unit of the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources, who provided much assistance with the statistical analysis of this data.

Preliminary assessment of Lake Sturgeon spawning and larval drift in the St. Marys River

Stefan Tucker, Troy Pine, Roger Greil, and Ashley Moerke - Aquatic Research Laboratory, Lake Superior
State University, Sault Ste Marie, MI

Description: Previous research suggests that the Lake Sturgeon population in the St. Marys River may be
vulnerable to catastrophic events due to a small resident population size as well as lack of confirmed
spawning and early life stages (e.g., larvae or juveniles). Only adult and sub-adult Lake Sturgeon have been
collected in the St. Marys River and it is currently unclear if the population is successfully self-sustaining. A
study was conducted during spring-summer 2012 in the Garden River and the Soo Locks Unit 10 tailrace to
confirm Lake Sturgeon reproduction in the St. Marys River system. Egg mats (tailrace only) and overnight
sets of larval drift nets were used to document lake sturgeon reproduction at both locations. Water
temperature, depth and flow also were recorded. Eight larval Lake Sturgeon were captured in the Garden
River between May 24-29, corresponding to temperatures of 18-20oC, but no eggs or larval sturgeon were
collected in the tailrace. Although reproduction was never confirmed in the tailrace, adult sturgeon
activity was observed in the study site. Further sampling will be conducted in spring-summer 2013 to
identify important spawning locations and quantify larval drift in the Garden River.

Building a Future for Lake Sturgeon through Fish Passage

Nick Utrup - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Frankin, WI

Description: Great Lakes lake sturgeon populations have been slow to recover since their decline in the
late 1800s due to habitat destruction, dam construction, and overfishing. Most tributaries to Lake
Michigan that were important to sturgeon contain dams that block access to historic spawning and rearing
habitat. The Menominee River contains the largest of Lake Michigan’s nine remaining wild lake sturgeon
populations. However, this population is still severely depressed and dams continue to fragment the
population and prevent fish from completing their traditional migration to and from Lake Michigan.
Through years of focused research and planning, the Menominee River Fish Passage Partnership (U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Natural
Resources, North American Hydro, River Alliance of Wisconsin and Michigan Hydro Relicensing Coalition),
have determined that Menominee River lake sturgeon are an important and genetically distinct
population critical to sturgeon recovery in Lake Michigan. The Fish Passage Partnership has determined
that safe and effective upstream and downstream passage around the lower two dams on the river is
needed for the population to reach healthy and sustainable levels. Science, planning, and teamwork have
resulted in development of the very first fish passage in North America designed for lake sturgeon, which
should be completed by 2015.

International Sturgeon Symposium 7 – Nanaimo, BC, July 2013

Affiliation: Vancouver Island University and the World Sturgeon Conservation Society

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